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There ARE Stupid Questions: How to Prepare for Your Next Interview

People say that there are no stupid questions.  Wrong… at least, when you are interviewing for a new job.  I have been counseling people on how to interview, then celebrating job offers and commiserating over turn-downs, for the past 5 years. Over the course of time, I have learned a few lessons.

First of all, most great candidates are not experts at interviewing.  As a matter of fact, most great candidates are terrible at interviewing because they rarely have to do it. However, being a great interviewer is how most people get job offers these days. As with anything in life, the best way to succeed is Prepare, Prepare, Prepare. Below are my lessons learned – and please feel free to share these with anyone who may benefit.

1. It is crucial to understand the company’s business and/or products before your interview. The best way to find company info (besides their website) is often Wikipedia. This site tends to be more upfront and clear than the company’s own website, which either assumes that you already know about the company or is trying to sell you something.

2. Know your interviewer.
  It’s normally pretty easy to find out your interviewer’s full name prior to your interview. If you are working with a good agency, they will provide that information. If you are searching on your own, you can always call the HR department from the company and ask for the name of the person conducting your interview. Once you have the name, do your research. Look them up on LinkedIn (LI’s advanced search allows you to search by first name and company – so it’s possible to find people without having a last name). Take note of how long they have been with the current company, their title, their career path, their degree – anything that can help you determine the parts of your background to stress and questions to ask.

3. Know yourself. A few days before the interview, review your own resume. Take some time to regress in time and re-live the first few jobs that are listed on your resume. You will never know what may jump out to an interviewer – if it is listed on your resume, it is fair game.

4. Flatter the company. Find some good press on the company/industry where you are interviewing. The most obvious spot to start is the press release section of their website. A better place to look is Google News and an even better place is archives of industry specific journals/news sites. You will score extra points if you can slyly mention an accolade that the company received that was not listed on their website.

And finally…

5. Don’t ask stupid questions. There is a point in almost all interviews where you will have a chance to ask questions. The goal of this section of the interview, contrary to popular belief, is to make the interviewer feel good about him/herself and the company where they work. Why? Because the more people talk about themselves, the more they will like you (this has been scientifically proven). Too many candidates want to picture themselves in the job and start asking logistical questions like: how often are expenses reimbursed, can I come in at 7:30 instead of 8, or is there free coffee. These questions waste valuable time and, honestly, are slightly presumptive.

So, what are some good questions to ask? Anything that gets the interviewer talking about things they enjoy about their job. Examples: What do you like most about working here?  Why did you decide to join this company? What is the culture like here? What are some traits of the most successful members of your team? What is your management style like? What are some examples of key projects that your team has worked on?

The key to successful interviewing is to “sell first, buy later”. You should think of every single interaction with a potential employer as an opportunity to sell yourself. Trust me, you will have plenty of time to ask logistical/buying questions once the company has decided to extend an offer. And, if you wait until that point in the process, you just may like their answers a little bit better.

Good luck out there!

Michele Wilson – Career Counselor, Technical Connections

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One response to “There ARE Stupid Questions: How to Prepare for Your Next Interview”

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